The stars of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — Seth Rogen as the hapless dad Mac (Mac?) Radner, Rose Byrne as his equally hapless wife Kelly — disappear for about fifteen minutes during the first act. In their place, the movie’s main “antagonist,” freshman sorority wannabe and burgeoning feminist Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) takes center stage. First she interrupts a giggly sorority introduction to express her distaste for it, only to find out that sororities in the United States are forbidden by the National Panhellenic Council to host parties. Later that day, she attends her first fraternity party, where she’s horrified by the male-driven debauchery on display. She returns to her dorm to commiserate and smoke weed — everyone in this movie likes smoking weed! — with two new friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein), who help her arrive at the idea of starting a new sorority in their own image.
How rare is it to see a mainstream studio comedy treat the thoughts and emotions of a young woman and her friends with this much attention and nuance? Rare enough that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising has been labeled “feminist” and “progressive” by many observers, as well as not feminist and flimsily progressive by observers of those observers. The movie’s main conflict comes when Shelby’s fledgling sorority Kappa Nu moves into the house formerly occupied by the onetime fraternity bro Teddy (Zac Efron), who terrorized the Radners during the first movie and returns to do the same as a mentor figure for Kappa Nu this time around. Mac and Kelly balk at the return of hard partying to their block, especially in the midst of a 30-day period of escrow on their old home, during which their tentative new homeowners (Sam Richardson from Veep and Abbi Jacobson from Broad City, both amusing but underutilized) can drop their bid at the first sight of trouble. But Kappa Nu doesn’t want to stop — they’re on a mission of gender parity and drunken revelry that won’t be deterred by a dorky middle-aged dude and his pregnant wife.
News broke (okay, a tweet was sent) last night about Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot: the receptionist role originated by Annie Potts will be played by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth.
Given that Feig is clearly a big fan of SNL, I’d like to think that this sketch drove to him to give Hemsworth a call.
Neighbors, in which a married couple with a newborn child squares off against the rowdy band of fraternity brothers next door, might seem disingenuous in the wake of recent sexual assault scandals in the world of Greek life. But director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien assuage those concerns with a big-budget studio comedy that’s just a tad smarter than you’d expect, and considerably funnier.
The majority of the movie takes place on a single suburban street, in and around two adjacent homes. In one, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) grapple with the trials and tribulations of raising a daughter, maintaining their relationship and staying sane. In the other, Delta Psi president Teddy (Efron) and his brothers aspire to earn a place on the fraternity’s coveted wall of history-making party antics. Naturally, these two goals can’t easily co-exist. Mac and Kelly initially, and haphazardly, attempt to win over the bros with their rusty youthful charm, but things turn sour once the couple realizes their baby is more important than some ‘shrooms and a carefully orchestrated “swordfight.”
Even before I sat down to watch Bridesmaids, I felt like I’d already seen it. It’s a symptom of the saturated pop culture world in which we live. Not only had I seen the PG-13 clips of the infamous bridal shop scene repeated ad nauseam, but the 2011 film quickly came to stand for a standard of comedy that few movies since have been able to match. (Pitch Perfect might be the exception, but I wouldn’t know – haven’t seen that one either.)
Sitting down to watch Bridesmaids for the first time was an interesting experience. I spent the first thirty minutes anxiously awaiting the arrival of farts and burps, only to discover that that scene, while well-constructed, was far from the movie’s centerpiece, and not even its funniest attempt at body part-related humor (that would be Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph arguing about their “assholes”). Instead, that scene served as a preamble for what turned out to be a moving, surprising comedy that balanced elements of romance, drama and farce with remarkable ease. I finished the movie surprised to find that, in some ways, it had been underhyped. I expected the movie to crescendo during the few scenes that everyone talks about in casual conversation, but instead I was rewarded with a supremely entertaining and well-crafted story surrounding those few scenes.
With that in mind, here are five (okay, six) reasons Bridesmaids is far more than some bad chicken and gastrointestinal malfunctions.